05/10/2020

Baby Yoda is the breakout star of Disney+’s The Mandalorian, with toys in high demand. But Disney is starting to crack down on Etsy’s underground Baby Yoda market, with several sellers forced to remove their listings due to copyright claims by the company.

Begun, the toy wars have
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge; Photo by YourStuffedMemories / Etsy
Everyone loves Baba Yoda, but official merchandise of the character has been hard to find, since Disney didnt want to spoil the surprise surrounding the little green alien by producing toys and t-shirts ahead of The Mandalorians premiere. In that vacuum, plenty of enterprising Etsy sellers have popped up to sell their own homemade Baby Yoda plushies and toys at least, until Disney started issuing takedown notices, requiring that Etsy remove listings for bootleg merch.
Several Etsy sellers tell The Verge they have had their listings removed, cutting off popular products and disrupting existing sales. One seller, Tanya, who runs the stuffed animal storefront YourStuffedMemories, had been selling homemade Baby Yoda plushies for about a month when she received a message from Etsy. It had deactivated her sales listing after getting a complaint from Disney over her usage of the words Star Wars, mandalorian, and Yoda to sell the plushies.
Photo: YourStuffedMemories / Etsy
Another seller, Kate, had a listing for a Baby Yoda-style dice bag at her HedgeCrafts store removed by Etsy for similar reasons, as did the 1OOAcreWoodshop storefront, which sells knit wool plushies of the character. Most of the stores that The Verge talked to had takedowns issued in the last week.
The original listings for these stores were extremely popular: one Yoda doll had over 2,000 views and 300 favorites, while another seller said that she used to see at least 100 to 200 views a day. Removing the listings also caused issues with existing orders for at least one seller, delaying shipments as they tried to reconcile orders in Etsys system between the old and new listings. (My own order for a Baby Yoda from YourStuffedMemories was among those delayed.)
The takedowns come as Disney has finally begun selling its own Baby Yoda toys and plushies, including dolls that are available to preorder and a planned Build-A-Bear partnership for later this year. Disney has been oddly slow to offer products featuring the hit character. It took several weeks after the show premiered before Disney sold even the most lackluster of T-shirts and mugs. In that void, the Etsy market has been one of the only places to get Baby Yoda products often, better-looking ones than what Disney would offer.
Photo: 100AcreWoodshop / Etsy
Its a difficult situation for sellers. Baby Yoda (like the terms Star Wars, The Mandalorian, and Yoda) is owned by Disney, and the company has the legal right to enforce its intellectual property and prevent others from profiting off its work. But fans have been eager for products Disney isnt offering, and sellers handmade toys can deliver a burst of new customers to Etsy shops that typically sell much lower-profile goods, like stuffed unicorns and wall decorations. Tanya, the only seller to give approximate sales, told The Verge that she had sold 200 or so of the plushies.
Etsy declined to comment on the takedowns but pointed to its Intellectual Property Policy, which says that Etsy reserves the right to disable any listing, shop, or account in response to intellectual property claims. Disney has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Generic descriptions make the plushies much harder to find
Tanya has resumed selling her plushies under the more ambiguous name The Baby Child, with all direct references to Star Wars and The Mandalorian removed. Shes still concerned that Disney may try to remove the listing, but the effects of the takedown have already hit not having the Star Wars keywords have made her product much harder to find, with views of her page slowing down to a trickle of two to 10 views a day.
Kate has relisted her dice bag, too, with a more generic description: Is he an alien, a goblin?… his origins are unknown. She says that her dice bag sales have also decreased since shes had to relist it without the Star Wars keywords, but she thinks the slowdown may be for the best: all her bags are handmade, and shes already got weeks of orders to fulfill.
Photo: HedgeCraft / Etsy
The 1OOAcreWoodshop has taken a similar tack: it now sells a Baby Alien Plush Doll. Although like Kate and Tanya, the company tells The Verge that views have dropped considerably on the new listing as a result.
Theyre not the only ones. A quick search on Etsy for the child or baby alien reveals a plethora of stores attempting to avoid Disneys gaze. But Disneys copyright claims seem to be oddly scattershot, and there are still thousands of listings on the site that blatantly sell Baby Yoda and Mandalorian merch. Its not clear why these specific listings were targeted, but their popularity may have played a role. Kate said her dice bag jumped in popularity when it was highlighted by Geek Girls in December, driving shoppers to her store and boosting sales at least until Disney spotted it.